A city park in Berlin has won the European Soundscape Award for its innovative design which cuts traffic noise and creates a more attractive acoustic environment. The prize, presented at a ceremony in London by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the Noise Abatement Society (NAS), is intended to raise awareness of the health impacts of noise and recognise initiatives that help create more tranquil environments.
Noise pollution is not only a nuisance - it can also affect human health when it increases stress levels or disturbs sleep. Prolonged exposure can even trigger serious illness such as hypertension and heart disease.
Across Europe, at least 100 million people are exposed to damaging levels of noise just from road traffic. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year Europeans lose at least 1 million healthy life years due to traffic-related noise. Giving people better access to tranquil places can on the other hand enhance mental and physical health and improve quality of life.
This year was the second time the EEA and NAS encouraged applications for the European Soundscape Award. The competition was open to any product, campaign, innovation or scheme offering a creative solution to the problem of noise. The organisers received 10 entries spanning 11 countries, covering a wide range of initiatives in the field of noise control or soundscape management.
The winner of the European Soundscape Award 2012
A German consortium led by the Technical University of Berlin won the European Soundscape Award 2012 for the remodelling of Nauener Platz, a city park in Berlin. The winning project had a highly participatory approach, involving residents and people working in the area. Ideas for creating a new attractive park were collected through public discussions and workshops. The people behind the project also organised ’sound walks’ so local people could identify the noisy areas to
be considered in the reconstruction of the park’s soundscape.
Although traffic can still be heard in Nauener Platz, users feel that the park has a much more pleasant atmosphere. This was achieved by installing devices in sculptures and benches playing recorded sounds of birds and water. The consortium also built a 1.5 m sound barrier made of stone and plants at one side of the park close to playground. Benches for parents were situated directly behind the wall to increase the noise reduction effect. The redesign of the park also included more attractive playgrounds, sports areas and green spaces which increased the lively sounds from human activities.
European Soundscape Award 2012 - runner-up prize
Estonian NGO Ökokratt won the runner-up prize for its educational project ‘Noise is not music’. The project aimed to raise awareness of the adverse impacts of noise among children and young people. Approximately 30,000 children from 214 different schools and institutions participated.
The project educated 100 teachers about noise and its health impacts. The teachers subsequently planned and implemented a ‘Silence Week’ at their respective schools and institutions. The multi-faceted project also brought together many other activities involving schoolchildren, including a research project competition, resulting in a play by a theatre group. Several groups also created noise maps and monitored noise levels in their own classrooms (video).